The Soul’s Journey – Living the Examined Life

April 11, 2018

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I woke this morning feeling heavy – a combination of drowsiness, resistance to starting the day and inertia that I often associate with the grey, cloudy, damp, dreary day it appeared to be. I began my morning mindfulness meditation but felt distracted and unfocussed. I would drag the attention back to the breath but noticed it would move to my heartbeat and a heaviness around my heart. I checked for associated signs of a heart attack then brought the attention back to the breath

No Such Thing as a Bad Meditation

After I finished I noticed some judgment that it hadn’t been a “better” meditation. I reminded myself that there is no such thing as a bad meditation and began my day as usual with some tea, sacred music and reflection. I started to journal about how I was feeling. I had some judgment about how little I had accomplished the previous day. In the morning I had tried hard to focus on my list of things to do but had run into a series of obstacles that had frustrated me. It was one of those days when I tried to push through while getting nowhere.

Leaving The Stuck Place

Finally I had taken off for a coffee and a lovely walk around the ocean and Granville Island. It felt good. I recited some of the poems I have learned, sung some chants and enjoyed the beauty. By the time I got home I decided it was time to reengage but to no avail. I felt like reading so I picked up a novel I was reading Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time and in no time got totally engrossed and could not put it down until I had finished. I noticed this strange sensation of guilty pleasure. My afternoon and evening were filled with reading, listening to music, some old Twilight Zones (I love that show), a brief strata meeting and an hour of contemplation before bed. I am trying to learn a poem that begins with the words,

“Days pass when I forget the mystery. Problems insoluble and problems offering their own ignored solutions jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber along with host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing their coloured clothes, caps and bells.

Denise Levertov Primary Wonder

What is Life Supposed to Look Like?

As I write I realize my angst comes from fear I am not living the life I think I should live. My mentor eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis talks about living the examined life in his recent book of the same name. I wonder if I am ignoring my responsibility to my Soul through lethargy and inertia or is this just my old protestant work ethic getting its reminder in. I sit perplexed and write, “What is life supposed to look like at the age of 74?” Yesterday I avoided lots of things I could have been doing. Each morning I affirm that I will be guided where my passion takes me but what if my passion seems to want to read a novel?

A Meaningful Coincidence

In my confusion I recall a moment of fascinating synchronicity that happened the day before. On Sunday I had facilitated a dream workshop. It is I something I truly love to do: it is engaging, rewarding, invigorating and a full day. One of the practices I offer is asking participants to draw a card from a deck I have titled Soul Cards. They are images without explanations. The exercise is to observe what feelings, energy and symbols arise from your projection on the image – it is a gentle introduction to a process that is similar to how I explore dreams. As I was putting the cards away I noticed one that seemed to speak to me; I knew my priority was to continue holding the space for the group so I ignored the impulse to explore it. At the end of the day I was ready for a walk and to relax so I packed everything away without giving the image another thought. However the universe had other plans. On Monday morning as I engaged in a frustrating search for a photo of Assisi, I encountered a photo of the same card taken on January 14th. I have no recollection of taking it but suspect I took it for someone at my dream workshop then. It seemed like a sign to explore.

Taking a Journey Into The Imaginal World

I found the card and began a journey of active imagination with it. What were the symbols – a gentle, curious deer; a solid tree holding up to stormy weather; a feminine figure resting in the security of the tree. The energy is both dynamic yet peaceful, my feelings included a sense of curiosity while feeling strangely reassured.

The Ah-Ha moment.

Of course! The deer was the reminder to bring gentle curiosity to myself when I feel blown about – not judgment. The card reminded me that after an intense day like Sunday I needed to take it easy. The woman reminded me it was about connecting more to the feminine and resting in the embrace of the earth. I had become stuck in the masculine energy of doing things and then getting frustrated by pressing on rather than letting go. After exploring this image I noticed an immediate shift: the heaviness around my heart dissipated, my energy lifted, my judgment of myself diminished and I felt a restored sense of flow. Perhaps this is what living the examined life is all about.

Denis Levertov’s poem finishes like this:

And then once more the mystery is present to me, the throng’s clamour recedes, the mystery that there is anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything rather than void: and that.O Lord, Creator Hallowed One, You still hour by hour sustain it.

Thanks so much Denise for your exquisite insight.

 

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A Soul’s Journey – Increasing Stress and The Shadow Personality

March 21, 2018

My plane is touching down and I notice a plethora of feelings: anxiety, apprehension, foreboding, gratitude and joy. For almost two years I have been organizing a conference for the Spiritual Community I work with; it is in Oaxaca, Mexico. And tomorrow it begins. So too, would my own personal ‘conference’ with the alter ego I call ‘Shadow Trevor’.

A Glorious Locale

Oaxaca is a beautiful Spanish colonial city in southwestern Mexico replete with colourful, streets reminiscent of Europe and more than a dozen medieval churches built in the grand Dominican style – an astonishing combination of European style and vibrant Mexican culture. The area is a treasure of regional crafts, Mesoamerican archeological remains and a spirituality that combines indigenous and the Catholic beliefs, focused significantly around the Lady of Guadeloupe. It is, however, still in Mexico, and fully subject to unexpected bureaucratic complications. The unfolding journey had been challenging but successful, I was ready to complete my two-year mission.

The Stress Builds

Organizing a conference is a full time preoccupation for four days. You are managing all the details – meals, breaks, speakers, and everyone’s personal needs, discomforts and anxieties that they need to bring to your attention. Then in addition, the stream of the unexpected always takes you by surprise. Over the next 24 hours, circumstances began to concentrate, like the flow of magma in a volcano, building up pressure within me.

  • Someone was claiming they had paid for a room at the hotel and they were not on my list.
  • A speaker arrives with the flu and has no idea when he will be well enough to slot into a packed schedule.
  • His absence requires you unexpectedly to take on an additional event that is connected to the conference but not actually part of it.
  • Two speakers give you lists of unexpected demands for their Sunday presentations
  • One of our community members had gone to great effort to organize a permit for a dance (17 steps of Mexican bureaucracy) and due to miscommunication, the time is wrong and it may not fit the agenda.
  • The meeting space has to be completely cleared by 4.00pm to allow the set up for Friday night’s optional event – dinner and performance of Guelegatzer Dancing – which suddenly grabs everyone’s focus, requiring constant attention.
  • There is a desire to schedule an additional event Sunday evening. Sure. Why not.

At this point, unaware of the impending volcano, I am going with the flow, keeping a smile on my face, adapting and solving problems. And then I make a catastrophic error.

 Where it All Goes Terribly Wrong

Prior to the last event I conducted in Assisi, I had a powerful dream that reminded me of the importance of grounding myself and avoiding too much alcohol as a coping mechanism. I should have remembered this on the Friday.

That night, at the dance performance, relaxing after a full-on day, I had a glass of red wine. It tasted so good, it led to another. Then the maître’d approached me to tell me they had used the allotted wine for the evening. “Keep pouring,” I instructed generously, sliding down the slippery slope. By then my decision-making was compromised and instead of the grounding walk my body desperately needed; it was off to the bar for another drink.

The Three Faces of Control

I learned control at an early age. My mother had a baby, a four-year old, a six-year old, a ten-year old son from her first marriage, and two stepchildren aged 14 and 16. How she coped is still beyond my comprehension, but as a consequence I learned independence at a young age. Six-year-old Trevor took charge of his 4-year-old brother and created a world of wonderful adventures.

This has proven a great gift in my life and control and organization has contributed hugely to my success in the business world. But when my veneer of control comes under attack, this vulnerable six year old is exposed and a darker persona emerges to try and keep the walls of the fortress from crumbling. I call him “shadow Trevor”

This persona forfeits the niceness and smiles, focusing purely on getting the job done. He can be abrupt, possible hostile, cannot tolerate dissension and has no time for pleasantries.

If he fails in his quest the result is dire – the six year old is uncovered. The face of the six year old during my business career was explosive anger, erupting like Vesuvius and apologizing later.

My New Six Year Old Face

I have spent twenty years getting more in touch with my emotional body, and on Saturday morning, as I began to feel overwhelmed, I saw for the first time another, more endearing side to my six year old.

Rather than getting angry, I wanted to cry.

I sought out my partner Atum, who carries the responsibility of the teachings at the conference, and told him I needed a quiet word. We went to my room and I broke down and sobbed. The feeling of release, followed by joy, was amazing. I had a sympathetic shoulder to cry on and share some of the load I was carrying; it was a tremendous relief.

It’s a shame this is not an acceptable business strategy. Businessmen would live a little longer.

Reflections on The Journey

As eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis suggests, “we all live in haunted houses”, meaning the past will unconsciously influence our current behaviours.

Seeing emotion not as an enemy but a friendly face is a positive new awareness. Noticing that when “shadow Trevor” emerges it is time for some conscious rebalancing and shedding of the load is another important realization.

My resort to alcohol as reflexive anxiety management system was old history repeating itself. I learn slowly, but hopefully become a little more self-aware each time.

So I am choosing to organize one more conference before I lay down the responsibility. It will be Assisi in 2020.

As the Bard said, “Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more”.

 


A Flutter of the Cosmic Cape

December 10, 2017

On Thursday I awoke suddenly to the beating of my heart. It seemed faster than usual. Since the procedure that corrected my atrial fibrillation I have been much more conscious of my heart, I focused, it was still in sinus rhythm then it seemed to miss a beat. I was immediately traumatized; I practically leaped out of bed; the possibility that my atrial fibrillation was coming back deeply disturbed me.

Coping With Denial

At first I did not want to know. I decided to engage in my morning meditation practice hoping it would dissipate by the time I finished. However it still seemed to be beating faster than usual. I made my morning tea, sat for a while with my anxiety then checked my pulse again. It was definitely beating faster than I was used to however it did not have the familiar pattern of the arrhythmia that I had lived with for ten months. My first coping strategy was to suppress what could be happening. I would rather spend the day in denial rather than address the situation. I had an appointment with my cardiologist in less than week; I would try to defer worrying until then.

A Tinge of Relief

I headed to the gym. As I began my 35 minutes on the treadmill, I was apprehensive about what would happen. For ten months the treadmill had not been able to measure my heart beat because of the erratic rhythm. (At the time I had assumed all the machines were broken.) Since my procedure they had worked fine. After fifteen minutes I gingerly placed my hands on the monitors. I practically held my breath waiting the fifteen seconds for the reading. Finally 154 showed up. I gave a sigh of relief and offered up a brief prayer of gratitude. It was not arrhythmia but why was my heart beating less efficiently? It was definitely about ten beats faster than usual. Was I becoming obsessional? Was this something to worry about or was it just within normal range? I knew it wasn’t tachyarrhythmia, the levels would be much higher and it wouldn’t steadily decline.

Slipping into Mindlessness

I did my best to pack my anxiety away and get on with my workout. I was relieved to find it didn’t possess me as I got on with my day. It was only later in the evening that I noticed I had shifted into a state of preoccupation with overlapping mindless activity – Netflix, playing games on my iPad and feeling restless. When this happens it is like a stop sign reminding me I had unresolved anxiety.

Contemplation and Reflection

I decided to spend the last two hours of the day in contemplation and reflection to assess what was going on. I began by putting on some sacred music, then picking up my journal.

I began to unpackage my anxiety. It was not so much about the condition – I had lived with it for ten months; I was fortunate enough to have few side effects. However I certainly did not want to get embroiled in the medical system once again.

The Anxiety Behind the Anxiety

Then I realized what eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis describes as the anxiety behind the anxiety. I had undertaken a three-month inner journey as a result of my atrial fibrillation. (See https://wp.me/phAyS-CP) Suddenly I was facing a realization that perhaps my quest for meaning has been nothing but a delusion. Perhaps I had made it up to feel better. This was the real fear – that this inner journey had been for nothing In summary, “I guess feel bummed, and the proponents that life is random win out.”

The Puzzle Unfolds

As I sat reflecting, listening to the beautiful music of Enya, some pieces of my personal puzzle emerged. On Tuesday I had held a dream group. During the evening we drew angel cards and another from a deck called The Nature Speak Oracle by Ted Andrews that had previously offered great insight. On this particular evening I had drawn Courage from the angel cards and Power of Prayer from the nature deck. Neither had seemed particularly relevant then but they certainly did now. Then I recalled a practice I often do when I am suffering from challenges of faith. I review what I refer to as my Soul Journal. It is a collection of meaningful moments on the Soul Journey including something I describe as Moments of Awe and Wonder. It is my “Go To Chest” in times of challenge.

Exploring My Go To Chest

Somewhat synchronistically the previous day I had come across the very first entries when I first started in 2010. As I reviewed I began to capture the list again in my journal.

  • Taking a hiking cane for the first time on the day I broke my ankle, without it I would never have made it off the mountain.
  • Doing a 360 over my handlebars to avoid a small child and finding myself sitting on the ground with no injury as a passerby said “wow that was spectacular”
  • Meeting a woman for the first time in a line up at the library and realizing I had her telephone number in my pocket as someone I wanted to write about.
  • Driving up Mammoth Lakes Road and feeling what I thought was an electric shock. When I stopped I saw a turn-off that I knew I needed to explore and found a couple desperate because they had locked their keys in the car.
  • Having a psychic love affair as a result of which my worldview completely shifted.

In total I recorded eighteen of these moments of awe and wonder. I felt a clarity and calmness. No one contrary incident could cause the experience of years to collapse. My worldview felt affirmed. Perhaps I was supposed to live with atrial fibrillation, if that was my destiny then so be it. I will continue to seek meaning in every experience. It is my way.

Power of Prayer – I Hope

I decided was time to engage in the power of prayer. I have a somewhat dualistic relationship with prayer. I know it works – there are too many amazing stories about prayer. (Check out Larry Dossey’s books on the subject.) But how when and why is all part of what I call the Mystery. Who exactly I am praying to is beyond my comprehension. I don’t believe in praying for specific outcomes for my self. The phrasing of this particular prayer was more a discussion.

“Divine presence within me, I would prefer not to have my atrial fibrillation return but I am willing to accept whatever is for my highest good. In which case I pray for the gift of acceptance and surrender. Maybe it will come back, maybe it won’t, help me to surrender”

An Amazing Shift

I noticed how much better I was feeling. I found a new poem to learn and wrote it out, I did a gratitude meditation and focused on the transmission of positive energy to others. I realized how much better it was to spend my time in this manner as opposed to the mindless television and games playing.

The next morning I felt different. After my meditation I checked my pulse – the gentle, slow beat of my heart had returned. I sat with gratitude in my heart and wondered what I may have been missing.

A Flutter of the Cosmic Cape

The words the fluttering of the cosmic cape came into head. Like the matador fluttering his cape at the bull, perhaps the cosmos had been trying to get my intention.  As I contemplated this possibility, it occurred to me I had lost my way in terms of two practices that used to be a key component of my day. On the day of my episode I had spoken to a friend in Ontario who shared with me her morning practice of music, journaling and contemplation. As she spoke I remembered that used to be my practice before I got an iPad. Then the ability to check e-mail created so many distractions that contemplative practice vanished. Also my evening gratitude practice had also become truncated and squeezed in between TV watching and bed.

Finding My Way

It is time to disengage and set a different focus. My day would begin with meditation; continue with music, journaling and contemplation. At ten in the evening, I would put away my devices and focus on my inner journey. I would try and spend from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. without devices.

Post Script: Missing The Clues

It was only as this particular episode completed that I realized that the flutter of the cape was perhaps the end of a series of hints and clues my Soul had been sending me. (I sense the fluttering of the cape is one step ahead of the cosmic 2 x 4.)

First I burned myself on a hot dish, then I damaged my ribs helping my friend load his truck, spilt a bag of almonds and lost a toque that I was fond of. Then there were two dreams: one with Woody Allen and the other featuring Donald Trump reminding me that if I follow that which is mindless, shallow and inauthentic I will lose out. All small things but certainly suggesting my life had lost its flow. (See my dreamclarity blog for more on the dreams

James Hollis suggests in his book “What Matters Most” that the psyche asks of us what sustains the Soul and what sustains the Spirit and if we do not answer these consciously they will go underground and show up as somatic disorders, behavioral disorders and projections. I sense my Soul was asking the question but I was asleep.

 

 

 

 


The Soul’s Journey – Zen Biking

November 3, 2017

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It is a beautiful Vancouver Fall day. After five days of relentless rain we’re having a gorgeous end to October. I wondered about a bike ride but my last experience had been painful. My bike seemed sluggish and even heavier than usual more like a lumbering rhino than a spirited charger. I had put it down to the colder temperatures and my own lack of practice. Finally I decided a lethargic bike and reluctant rider were better than going to the gym so I dressed warmly and unlocked the restraining padlock. It occurred to me that the tires could have lost some air since summer and when I checked the front it definitely felt soft. To my surprise each tire required sixty strokes of my floor pump. These tires were seriously under inflated.

Flying Like a Gazelle

Finally I was ready to go. I felt the difference immediately. It was dramatic – my lumbering rhino had become a gazelle. What a difference! My ride was relaxing and enjoyable, I could stay in a lower gear range and had time and desire to fully appreciate the beauty of a Fall day.

Rolling Resistance

It was only when I got home and did some research that I found that low tire pressure creates what is termed rolling resistance. This meant that each pedal stroke created less forward motion than usual so my ride was longer and much harder work. Tires naturally lose air over a season and in addition cooler temperatures result in lower tire pressure. During my ride I noticed myself begin to explore the symbolic nature of my experience. In order to eliminate this resistance I first had to check the tires, then I needed to pump and that resulted in air filling the tires. I began to reflect on the applications of this metaphor on the Soul Journey.

Breathe The Free Air My Friend

Air is of course a perfect synonym for breath. Frequently taking time to inhale a breath can change how we respond to any given situation. The parallel to my bike incident revealed itself. First I need check in. Then I have to respond by focusing attention to the breath and then I have do it.

Finding Balance

It is a great practice to see how balanced you feel in the moment. First bring attention to the body, then take a few deep breaths and see what emerges. Occasionally I find my energy id too frenetic and I use the breath to ground myself. (As you breathe imagine you are a tree rooted to the ground.) Then do the same with how you are feeling. I find this particularly helpful when I am feeling inertia and lack of energy. As I bring attention to the breath I often hear the voice, “go for a walk” acting on this invariably enlivens me no matter how bad the weather. Next apply the same focus to your thoughts. Notice as you breathe what is distracting you – is there any negative self talk engaged? Then release it and let it go. Times like this I try and recall Don Miguel Ruiz’s four agreements: Don’t make assumptions, Don’t take it personally, Do your best, Be impeccable to your word.

One More Check-In

Finally my last check in is with the Soul, deeper self, the Force or whatever works for you. Checking in with the breath will often help me see how to connect with what I sometimes think of as “the ground of being”. It helps me remember to feed the Soul perhaps with poetry, a walk, beauty, music, a sacred text or sometimes just to browse through my Soul Journal the repository for mystical and meaningful moments in my life.

Rolling resistance does not just apply to bikes; it’s the force that prevents us from doing that which serves our best. So check-in, take some breaths and fly.


The Souls Journey – How to learn to Say Yes

August 9, 2017

Yes:No - Lorne

My recent blog on “How to Learn to Say No” triggered an unexpected self-awareness. I needed to learn how to say “Yes”. My default response when asked to do something was often “No”. This was intriguing. While I was exploring the mechanisms that caused someone to react with a ‘Yes”, I realized I had the opposite inclination. So what gives?

I realized my initial response would always take care of my own needs and feelings first. In fact I would not naturally consider the impact my response may have on another. For example recently I planned a visit to idyllic Cortes Island where I am fortunate enough to have a second home. One of the gifts of visiting is I get a chance to hang out with a dear friend of many years. One of our shared interests is soccer and when he knew of my intention to come he suggested we watch the Confederation Cup Final together. As my interest in the sport wanes in the warmer weather, I abruptly dismissed the idea. It was not until I began this inquiry that I began a process of reconsidering my reaction. Suddenly I began to see that that this was not about soccer but friendship. It never entered my head that he may have extended the invitation because he wanted to see me. At no time had I considered the feelings that may have been behind the invite.

So why, when faced with choice, is my automatic response more likely to be no, and what can I do to become more conscious in my decision as opposed to reactive? Once again I suspected this is a pattern created in childhood by a coping mechanism. However while I find the situation that is likely to create the reaction of “Yes” easy to comprehend, I could not immediately see what circumstances may lead to the opposite result.

Those who can only say yes are likely influenced by demanding or narcissistic parents where yes is rewarded whereas no could result in a withdrawal of affection and the like. So under what circumstances could “No” become the answer that gets rewarded and affirmed.

I sense the key must lie in my early dependence as a child. At the age of six my mother had a baby girl; my younger brother was only four and she had three older children to care for as well. As a result I became extremely independent.

As a therapist suggested later my needs weren’t being met yet my self-sufficiency as such resulted in this not being a problem. My universe became that containing me and my younger sibling. We create a world that was autonomous of the world around us. Under those circumstances it seems reasonable that self-preservation of this entity became the coping mechanism and a natural consequence of that was to reject things that interfered. In this way saying no, unless it clearly served the primary scenario would emerge as a natural result. Thus my automatic response to anything that does not immediately resonate with serving myself is “No”.

So how to change? Well the first step in this as in any other healing journey is awareness. By becoming aware I can begin to notice when the default response is about to manifest. The second step is to play for time – can I let you know later? The third step is consideration of the other – how will they feel if I say no? Is there a higher good to be addressed? How would I feel if I said yes? Finally there is the conscious response which may be either yes or no but it will be a considered response as opposed to a reactive one.

Recently I had scheduled an evening with a small Spiritual Guidance group that I facilitate. When the number dropped to only two people attending I decided it was not worth the time and energy. However both of the remaining people seemed quite upset. They asked if I would meet with them anyway. I noticed my immediate inclination was to say no but I took some time rather than reacting. I realized that perhaps there was a higher good that took precedence over my feelings so I reinstituted the meeting. It was a wonderful rewarding evening that I am so glad I did not miss. As the Hindu proverb says, “you take one step toward God and God comes running towards you.”

 


The Soul’s Journey – Finding your “Go to Support Chest”

November 15, 2016

I woke up at 4:40 a.m. the day after the election full of dread. Racing around my mind were confusion from trying to hold two opposites. That consciousness was positively evolving when the Americans had just elected a bombastic, misogynist, racist, ignorant narcissist who had no concept of truth and likely the emotional and psychological maturity of a six year-old.

I knew I would not sleep again that night so I got up and followed my intuition. First I forced myself to engage in my morning meditation practice. Difficult as it was to still my mind, I prayed for equanimity. Then I put on some Gregorian Chants and began to read my Soul Book.

In times of stress, anxiety and uncertainty I try to avoid my tendency of engaging my normal anxiety management systems (distraction, diversion, and varying mild addictions like mindless TV viewing). Instead I open my “Go to Support Chest” to search out practices that feed my deeper self. Sacred music, meditation and reviewing my Soul Book are prime examples of what can sustain me during existential crises.

In the inner cover of my Soul Book are the words, “Reflections, Contemplations, Meditations, and Inspiration.” It is a miscellany of poems, quotes, and stories where I have experienced moments of awe and wonder within this mystery that we live. I write in bright, cheerful, coloured inks that register easily on the eye. In moments like this when the future seems so bleak and incomprehensible, I find things to uplift me.

On this particular day my eye caught a beautiful extract from a poem by St Francis that I encountered in “Love Poems from God” by Daniel Ladinsky. ‘For laughing and passion, beauty and joy they are our hearts truth. All else is labour and foreign to the Soul.” It seemed a perfect focus for the day. I shared the quote on Facebook and found out later that sharing poetry was one of the primary ways people were supporting each other on social networking.

Another entry reminded me of all the different ways to feed the Soul: Love, Peace, Joy, Compassion, Gratitude, Wonder. Awe, Mindfulness and Meditation, Music, Poetry, Dance, Laughter, Passion and Play.” It was time to let go of disappointment, sadness , grief and anger. Time to let go of needing to know what it all means. We live in a mystery. It was time to reflect on the wonderful words of Gautama Buddha, “Never in the world does hatred cease by hatred; hatred ceases by love.” . It worked. I felt a deep inner piece that supported me through the day.

I subscribe to a beautiful service that sends me glorious Soul Poems with beautiful pictures every day. Unfortunely the Panahala site has closed I suspect in disappointment after the election results but Joe Riley’s poem on November 8th was perfect. It was by Rumi:

This is now. Now is

All there is. Don’t wait for Then.

Strike the spark, light the fire.

Sit at the Beloved’s table

Feast with gusto, drink your fill

Then dance

The way branches

dance in a spring wind.

The green earth is your cloth:

Tailor your robe with dignity and grace.


The Soul Journey – Understanding the Stories That Run Our Lives

November 5, 2016

This was the theme I developed for my small Spiritual Guidance Group that met last Wednesday. The idea was unexpected and had indirectly arisen as a function of the dream I wrote about in a recent dream blog. (http://wp.me/p7aFpI-4z)

This dream encouraged me to explore something that was missing in my perspective as a spiritual teacher. The clue to its resolution was in the yellow T-shirt I had put on during the dream. Yellow is a colour associated with the mind and the sun.

The “ah hah” moment came when I remembered I refer to James Hollis, eminent Jungian analyst, as the teacher of my mind. The dream prompted me to return to a task I had neglected – to record notes from his lecture series from his book, “Hauntings”.

Once more his wisdom inspired me. In his second lecture he suggests that much of our lives are run though unconscious stories that we are continually in service to and asks, “what are the implicit stories that your life history seems to be manifesting or dramatizing or externalizing in your life.”

He gives a remarkable example from a friend of his who also happens to me my favourite poet – Stephen Dunn. As a child he lived together with his parents and grandparents on his mother’s side of the family.

Unbeknownst to anyone the grandfather had a mistress, who got sick. He ran out of money for her hospital bills and asked his son in law for money but made him promise not to tell his wife. A secret was born.

It was never repaid – his wife found out the money was gone and asked where. He told her he had lost it at the track. It created a permanent rift between them; he fell into alcoholism and Steven grew up in a fractured family where the coping mechanism was silence. He confided in Stephen when he was in his late teens but promised him to secrecy.

This story and secrecy was an undercurrent to his life and when asked by Hollis how it had effected him he responded, “I thought that arguments were played out in silence and silence was what I armed myself with”

I was profoundly touched by this account and began to wonder what stories had unconsciously shaped my life. I realized that as a fifteen-year old I had concluded that there was no God; life was therefore meaningless and so I had better take care of myself as best I could.

This story was the undercurrent of my life for the next thirty years. It resulted in a very self-serving, controlling and manipulative persona. Only when it was replaced by a new story that I was “a spiritual being having a human experience” could I begin the true journey of the Soul. From this perspective life had to have meaning.

I reviewed my insights with a dear long-term friend and he was intrigued. He began to share his own confusion about why his parents had moved the family from relative comfort in the UK to comparative poverty in Toronto. “I was always trying to find out”, he confided. “I even questioned my mother if she had followed a neighbor who moved here.” I asked him if he sensed there was a secret behind it. It was as though the scales fell from his eyes. “All my life I have been trying to find the answer to a secret I did not know existed.”

I asked how this may have impacted him. He was exquisitely honest, “Sometimes I wonder if there is something I am not aware of – some hidden agenda.”

It was an amazing moment. It confirmed the power inherent in Hollis’s teachings.

Later that evening I reviewed this material with my group. The impact was so much more than expected. People begin to see stories that had shaped and were shaping them:

  • A child who thought she had to always take care of people.
  • A family where silence and conflict avoidance were prevalent.
  • A child constantly in search of a father’s approval.

The final question we delved into was also from Hollis. Exploring our current unconscious stories is but part of the Soul journey. The question still to be answered is what story wants to enter the world through each one of us? Hollis suggests, “We all have these stories lying within us. We need to find the story we are meant by the Gods to live in this world and to understand what interferes with that story emerging.”

To quote teacher and mystic Atum O’Kane, “Before my life is over may I sing my song.”